Heavy Metal: Keeping it Lean on the Trail

How To Trim the Fat in Your Overland Setup

One of our first principles at Sidetrek is a lean ride.  More than any other strategy, sticking to this principle will have significant downstream advantages for your budget and your journey.  

With all the gear required for overlanding, it’s very easy to pack on the pounds. The heavier your ride, the more limitations you’ll have on the trail. A good overland setup is a thoughtful balance of capability and staying lean. Luckily, Sidetrek is here to help you strike that balance.

First Things First: The Downsides of Heavy


  • Tipping: The more weight you carry, especially up high, the more unstable your ride. You’ll be more likely to tip on steep pitches and over off-camber obstacles.
  • Getting stuck: The heavier you are, the easier it is to get bogged down in the loose stuff, or lose traction on a steep grade.
  • Range: All of those extra pounds take a toll on fuel efficiency, and will either shorten your range or require you to carry more fuel. Of course this adds more weight, and the cycle continues…
  • Wear and tear: Heavier vehicles put extraordinary forces on tires, suspensions, steering, and the whole drive train, causing significant wear and greatly increasing the chance of equipment failure. A heavy vehicle will require numerous drive train and suspension upgrades, costing several thousand dollars to avoid breakdowns on the trail.
  • Disorganization: Packing everything and the kitchen sink doesn’t just add pounds, it can add emotional weight as well. Digging for gear in a disorganized vehicle is frustrating and costs you valuable time. When it comes to packing for adventures, become a minimalist.

Let’s Talk Tires

Monster tires are all the rage, but they aren’t necessary or even helpful for many overlanding adventures. Large tires are great for rock crawling and climbing over-sized obstacles, but they can be overkill for your average trails and challenges. Even the Rubicon and Moab can be run on stock or modestly upgraded tires.

Upsized tires come with penalties: decreased fuel efficiency, poor handling, more strain on steering and drive train. And larger tires often require other significant – and costly – upgrades such as gear ratio, axles, suspension, and driveshaft. 

The weight and cost of large tires add up quickly. Don’t forget you’ll be lugging FIVE of these puppies around! As an example, five 31″ tires weigh 260lbs and will set you back $829. For 37s the weight is 360lbs, with a whopping pricetag of $2,350!

For most vehicles a +2 tire size jump is all you need. For instance, if you have 31-inch tires, a jump to 33s will serve you well on most trails. If you have 33s, a set of 35s should work just fine.



Here they are, our Top 5 recommendations for keeping it lean on your next overland adventure

#1. Choose aluminum over steel. Wheels, bumpers, and racks can all be aluminum. While it costs a bit more, the benefits quickly outweigh the up-front investment (see what we did there?!).

#2. Evaluate what you actually need and use, and opt for multi-functional items that serve several purposes. It sounds simple, but if you haven’t used an item in the last few trips try leaving it at home (of course, safety gear is an exception). You can shop some of our favorite multi-use items, like the ___, HERE.

#3.  Streamline the essentials. You know a fire extinguisher is a must-have, but did you know a 50-pounder isn’t your only option? We’ve looked outside the industry to curate a collection of safety items that balance cost, weight and performance. Check out our list of clever must-haves HERE.

#4. Ground camping vs. Rooftop tent. While rooftop tents are a great convenience (check out our run-down of overland sleep solutions HERE), they are the single heaviest item you can add. They can be 3-4x heavier than a good ground setup, and all that weight on the roof can really throw off your center of gravity. 

#5. TBD

If you have more tips for lightweight mods and gear, please share them below!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *